Sunday, December 11, 2005

Free trade

Why am I for free trade?

Well I see two obvious options

1) No human is allowed to trade with any other human
2) Everyone is allowed to trade with everyone else

The second of those appears to be better than the other from a practical point of view AND it involves freedom of choice. Now if I want to say there is an exception I would want to know EXACTLY why it is an exception to that principle.

Usually the argument is :"lets save US jobs and not let those jobs go to those Indians and Chinese (or new Zealanders)" forgive me if that argument does not convince me of anything except that the person in question is at best selfish and at worst racist (probably more the former than the latter).

The next question is why are we dividing people up by country in this regard? Imagine of you cut new york in half putting hte poor largely black areas on one side and the richer white areas on the other and prevented them from trading with each other - you would probably cause huge harm to both sides - worst of all the poor side.

Trade may well involve an absolute or a relative loss for one side but it almost always is an absolute gain for the collective - if that is not the case it is something other than "trade" that is the problem.

For example if you complain about the rich getting richer your problem is really with the taxation system not with "trade". If you complain about the "race to the bottom" your problem is with international treaties and governance in general.

Many people would say "china has low working standards therefore its products are cheaper therefore we should prevent outsourcing"
Well if that is the case then you would presumably pass a law that achieves EXACTLY what you are suggesting here - basically a tariff against countries that have low standards measured against an arbitrary scale or whatever but actually what seems to be being advocated is just blanket protection even against countries that probably have HIGHER standards because it is selfishness not principle that is driving this.

I have "some" sympathy towards governments having more restrictive policies towards countries with lower human rights or countries that "misbehave" but the person/country doing that should have to explain EXACTLY why and be honest about it.


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